Every year we celebrate the fourth of July at a large farm party near Stephen’s hometown. The family who hosts it also does so in celebration of the father’s birthday. Friends of both generations come from all over to camp out and celebrate the country’s independence together (plus the fact that they get a day off & a long weekend). The first year, after we’d just started dating, the whole thing was unfamiliar and overwhelming. I didn’t know anyone except Stephen, and he was playing in the band – not socializing. And when he was finished playing he wandered off and I was left trying to make small talk with strangers as the fireworks screamed overhead. NOT COOL, MR. He’s never done that again – swear. We were young.

The schedule is the same every year. At some point they bring out a birthday cake, I think before the band plays, and sing to Mr. E. There are tables lined with food, mostly greasy, locally packaged potato chips, PA made pretzels & homemade desserts. Pennsylvania, as I’m told frequently by the locals, IS the snack capital of the nation. Usually there’s a pig roast – but we miss it every year (not that we mind) because we don’t show up until dusk (not this year!). After the live music, when it’s finally dark, they light fireworks right there on the farm, not 100 yards away. The real stuff. The huge fireworks that shatter with a roar of thunder and sparkle like fireflies clinging to a willow tree that light up all at once and flicker out. The explosions are so close to the ground beneath that the ash dusts cars parked in the higher fields. The dogs run and hide in dark corners of the barn. And people stand still in awe of the bursts overhead.

After the fireworks, a massive bonfire is lit and the guys throw frisbees through the flames, skirting unbearably close to the fire while they chase the discs. The bonfire grows incredibly hot and most people maintain their distance, watching as it burns 20 feet high. But not the guys Stephen grew up with. They practically jump through the burning mass of old palettes and broken wood. And run into tall grasses in the night searching for missing frisbees no one caught.

This one night has become a tradition, a ritual. It’s nostalgic. It’s sheer joy. The live barn music, the explosions in the sky, the leaping bonfire, the wildness of the human spirit. It’s comforting. It’s childhood memories of what summer means, neatly folded into one night.

What traditions do you look forward to all year? Is 4th of July one of your favorite holidays?

In celebration of this country’s breakaway from the empire across the Atlantic, I give you this mouthful title (and hopefully literal mouthful) of a pie… the Vegan Lemon Berry Icebox Tart . I actually made this tart last week in Deep Creek Lake for my aunt’s birthday. But it’d be perfect for the 4th. I’d been daydreaming about how I’d make it the entire week before. I was inspired after seeing this recipe on Foodgawker. I wanted to make adorable, individual tarts that looked just like that(!) but alas… I’m lazy. And more importantly, couldn’t find the right accouterments.

This vegan tart is refreshing & smooth with bursts of fresh fruit flavor, creamy lemon coconut whipped filling, and a crunchy salty graham cracker crust. Honestly, I think the best part was the coconut oil graham cracker crust. Delightful.

While we sat and ate, we brainstormed all the ideas we could muster for variations on this tart. My aunt was pretty excited to discover coconut milk’s dynamism. The flavor possibilities are endless. Almond Joy. Chocolate & Peanut Butter. Peaches & Cream. Honey Lavender. Cinnamon Apple. Maple Walnut. Okay, I’ll stop now. Just giving you inspiration for the future. Made any great tarts lately? Have a family recipe you always make at Thanksgiving? If you have more ideas, let me know! I want your tart recipe.

This particular tart recipe is incredibly easy. The hardest part is waiting for the filling to set.


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  • 2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs approximately 18 graham cracker sheets
  • 7 Tablespoons Coconut Oil melted


  • 2 Cans Full Fat Coconut Milk refrigerated
  • ¼ Cup Maple Syrup
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Zest of 1 Lemon


  • ½ Pint Blueberries
  • ½ Pint Blackberries
  • ½ Pint Cherries pitted
  • 1 Pint Strawberries hulled


  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grind graham crackers in a food processor or blender until fine. Melt coconut oil and combine thoroughly with ground graham crackers until well combined. Press into a tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool before filling.
  • Separate the fat from the remaining liquid in the cans of coconut milk. Set liquid aside for other recipes (smoothies, oatmeal, etc). Beat the coconut cream until thick and luscious like traditional whipped cream. Fold in the maple syrup, lemon juice and zest. This will make the whipped coconut cream fall slightly. No worries. Evenly fill the baked graham cracker crust and freeze for 1 to 2 hours or until filling is thoroughly set.
  • Sprinkle prepared fruit over the top of the tart.
  • Eat now. Alternatively, the dessert can be returned to the freezer or refrigerator and eaten later. If frozen overnight, the tart will be much harder and the flavor profile will be different but still delicious.